Archive for October, 2008

Another Neurotic Democrat: James Jones

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Times has an article this morning quoting blacks in the Jacksonville, Florida area who are worried — and rightly so — that their early votes aren’t going to be counted. Remember, these are the same folks who were disenfranchised four years ago. Some believe systematically.

Like me, they aren’t taking anything for granted.

Here’s black warehouse worker James Jones, on Obama’s chances to win:

“I feel good, and I don’t feel good. I’m thankful to God that this is happening in my lifetime, that I get to see it. But I’m not ready to celebrate anything. This could be a very tricky time for us. I don’t trust the polls. And the state of Florida in the past has had a lot of crooked things going on.”

The Akron Ballot Initiatives: My Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

There are three local Akron initiatives. Again, I lean heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal here, which wrote a strong endorsement of Barack Obama, writing:

Where does Obama want to take the country? He wants to enhance the investment in education and research, essential to competitiveness in the knowledge economy. If his pledge to reduce the typical premium for health insurance by $2,500 a year is mostly guesswork, his overall plan reflects the pragmatism required to repair a costly and inefficient system of health care. He seeks to add fairness to the tax code, responding to trends in income, wealthier households doing far better, too many Americans experiencing flat paychecks in this decade.

So, here it goes…

7. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … to authorize council to appoint the clerk of council position in the unclassified service.

Yes.

A snoozer. This seems to me to be mainly a technical amendment. Te city clerk is appointed by the council, and answers to its members. Currently, though, the clerk falls under civil service, meaning that she answers to the mayor.

The Beacon Journal Writes:

Under the amendment, the clerk would serve solely at the discretion of the council, making it clear whose interests are being served. The mayor has similar authority over the top administrative officials who make up the Cabinet. …

It is reasonable for the City Council to directly employ its own clerk, whose hiring and firing would require a majority vote.

That seems reasonable to me.

8. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … establishing a scholarship fund for Akron resident students.

Yes.

At first blush, not much to get excited about. But this one has generated quite a bit of controversy locally, because, to pay for the scholarships — which local students would use to pay for college, technical, or trade school — the city would lease the Akron sewer system. The Beacon Journal called it the “sewers-to-scholarships plan.”

As near as I can gather, here’s how it would work. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic hopes to collect upwards of $200 million by leasing the sewers to a private firm. With that cash, he would create an endowment to fund students’ tuitioin. All students would be able to apply for the scholarships — whether they attended public school, private school, a nonprofit school, or were home-schooled.

As the Beacon Journal wrote in a recent editorial:

The city scholarship program would operate on the principle of the ”last dollar.” In other words, a student first would seek to gain college grants and scholarships from other sources. If he or she proved successful, the city then would make up the difference between the amount awarded and the cost of tuition at the University of Akron or a city trade school.

Follow the logic, and more resources from the city scholarship program would be available to those households not eligible for need-based awards. That translates into scholarships for the middle class, for those families and students who face the burden of paying for a substantial share of a college education.

Read more here.

But is leasing the sewers such a good idea? In a separate editorial, the Beacon Journal notes:

The fundamental point of a lease arrangement is that the city would still own the sewer system, retaining under its terms the right to make sure the system operates safely and in compliance with environmental regulations. Retaining city ownership would keep the pipeline open for federal money to cover upgrades. Terms of the lease would require the operator to use properly trained and certified personnel.

Rate hikes would be capped. And the 100 sewer system workers would be retained by the city, so no jobs would be lost.

As the Beacon Journal notes, the big picture, it seems to me, is this:

The Akron Scholarship Plan is based on a simple, but bold, premise: A well-educated work force would help jump-start the city’s economic future. What voters should know is that the plan, to be financed by leasing the sewer system, would be surrounded by a complex web of safeguards to protect rate payers, sewer department workers, the system itself and students who would receive tuition to the University of Akron or a trade or technical school in the city if Issue 8 passes.

There’s plenty of precedent for the idea of private companies running public utilities. Nationwide, private entities run some 1,800 government-owned plants. It doesn’t always work out, but, as the Beacon Journal points out in yet another editorial on the subject, “many … have found the partnerships beneficial. A private company has operated the sewer system in Indianapolis for 14 years, the water system in Jersey City, N.J., for 12 years.”

Sure, there’s a risk. But if we are going to increase access to educational opportunity and keep Akron competitive, we need a creative approach to solving today’s challenges. Issue 8 is exactly that.

9. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron, requiring a majority vote of the citizens for the sale, lease, or transfer of city utilities.

No.

This would amend the city charter and require that voters approve any action to sell, lease or transfer a city public utility. It was put forth by opponents of Mayor Plusquellic’s plan to lease the sewer systems, as a way to challenge it.

The Beacon Journal writes:

The city already has a vehicle for citizens to express their will independent of elected officials. First, they must gather the required signatures to reach the ballot. Then, they must persuade a majority of voters to side with their view.

In other words, voters are already voting on whether to lease the public utility — that’s issue 8. We don’t need to set in stone, as the Beacon Journal puts it, an “all-encompassing requirement regarding city utilities.”

That’s my take. I’d welcome your input, if you agree, disagree, or have any thoughts.

The Ohio State-wide Ballot Initiatives: Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I’m leaning heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal to help guide my decision making here. It’s a newspaper that I know, with an editorial page that endorsed Obama for president, writing:

What appeals about Obama is his tone and understanding about how to advance American interests. John McCain mocks Obama for appearing too eager to engage the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. Listen carefully, and you won’t hear Obama pushing something careless. He has surveyed the past eight years and recognized that attempting simply to isolate and punish adversaries is counterproductive in today’s complex and interconnected world. You engage to force hard choices. You listen to gain respect and build influence.

So, without further ado, my choices for the state ballot initiatives. Feel free to cut along the dotted lines and take this with you into the voting booth.

1. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To provide for earlier filing deadlines for statewide ballot issues:

Yes.

The Akron Beacon Journal explains:

Issue 1 would standardize the deadline for submitting petitions at 125 days before Election Day instead of the current 90-day deadline, shortened to just 60 days for a referendum. The amendment would set deadlines for checking signatures and making legal challenges and give the Ohio Supreme Court jurisdiction to act quickly.

In recommending a yes vote, the Beacon Journal notes:

Voters have a chance to bring some clarity and predictability to the [election] process. Issue 1 on the statewide ballot, a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature, would streamline and improve the process, ensuring that all issues appearing are ready for voters to decide.

Anything that brings more clarity and smoother elections in Ohio — while saving taxpayer dollars, as this would do — is a welcome enhancement.

2. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To authorize the state to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio program for environmental revitalization and conservation.

Yes

This amendment would authorize the state to issue $400 million worth of bonds to continue the highly successful Clean Ohio program, which has not only improved the environment, it’s attracted investment and created jobs. Endorsing the amendment, the Beacon Journal notes:

Half of the bonds would be targeted for cleaning up abandoned and polluted industrial sites, the urban brownfields. The $200 million spent so far has leveraged some $2.6 billion in public and private investment, creating 15,000 permanent jobs and 100,000 short-term construction jobs …

The other part of the Clean Ohio program provides grants for expanded greenspace. The preservation of farmland and natural areas and the expansion of parks and recreational facilities add in significant ways to the quality of life enjoyed in all parts of the state. Preservation of wild areas improves water quality and provides the habitat necessary to support fish and wildlife. In addition, the improvement of parks and trails adds to the state’s ability to attract and retain talented workers whose knowledge is needed to move the state economy forward.

Moreover, the bonds would be backed by general fund revenues, and so would not increase taxes.

3. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and other watercourses.

No.

The Beacon Journal says that, while this sounds good, it’s unnecessary, and was “part of a political deal struck quickly and late.” Here’s the nut:

The proposal surfaced as part of a compromise to win legislative approval of the Great Lakes Compact. The Republican majority in the Senate insisted that the ballot issue come with its support.

An argument for the measure holds the amendment merely would restate protections already established by the courts and contained in the compact. The truth is, that contention amounts to an even stronger argument against approval. The amendment is unnecessary.

4. Withdrawn.

5. Referendum on legislation making changes to check cashing lending, sometimes known as ‘payday lending,’ fees, interest rates, and practices.

Yes.

This one’s important — and not readily clear if you are reading it for the first time in the voting booth.

In a “stunning” defeat this summer, payday lenders lost their legislative fight to prevent caps on the interest rates they can charge on small loans. Now, they are tying to implement by referendum what they couldn’t do through legislation. The Beacon Journal writes:

The statewide referendum would be the lenders’ effort to reclaim what they lost: the opportunity to charge interest amounting to a 391 annual percentage rate on small, short-term loans.

Payday lenders would like nothing better than to drive a stake into the heart of the legislation, House Bill 545. They want voters to say ”no” on Issue 5, to reject the section of the law that imposes a 28 percent limit on payday loans.

The Beacon Journal goes on to note:

Republican leaders in the House and Senate, backed by Democrats and an array of civic groups, pushed House Bill 545 to passage. Gov. Ted Strickland swiftly signed the measure. The law slashed the annual percentage interest rate on payday loans from a loan-sharking 391 percent to 28 percent …

A ”no” would give payday lenders the go-ahead to continue business as usual. Business as usual means they can keep fleecing borrowers with astronomical interest rates, with no required minimum 30-day breathing room to repay loans. The fuzzy language on the ballot says a ”no” vote would result in a total loan charge that ”substantially exceeds an equivalent APR of 28 percent.” That means 391 percent.

A ”yes” would prohibit payday lenders from going above 28 percent. It will ensure that borrowers don’t fall victim to the slick business model that is payday lending — dependent on repeated borrowing, one loan leading to another to pay off the previous one.

6. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution by initiative petition for a casino near Wilmington in Southwest Ohio and distribute to all Ohio counties a tax on the casino.

No.

This one has been getting a ton of press here in Ohio. The question boils down to: Should voters allow casino gambling in Ohio? (Which might possibly open the door for Indian gaming in the future.) Proponents are running TV ads pledging that a casino would create 5,000 jobs and generate some $200 million in revenue for the counties. I’ve heard it said that this tax revenue is currently “leaving the state,” as people exit Ohio to gamble elsewhere.

But, as the Beacon Journal notes:

In terms of economic impact, the casino would produce a net loss. Even if 5,000 jobs were created in a casino complex with a hotel, restaurants, golf course and theater, most would be low-wage, dead-end service jobs. More, studies of gambling have shown that for every $1 in economic benefits, there are roughly $3 in costs, most notably in the form of families ruined at the gaming tables.

I’m not averse to gambling on principle. I try to hit Vegas once a year with my high school buddies. But there’s a broader point here, which the Beacon Journal captures in its conclusion:

Issue 6 is a dangerous distraction at a time of economic turmoil. Voters should reject this latest gambling scheme and shift their attention to making long-term investments in education and infrastructure that promise true improvement for Ohio.

Times are tough. The last thing Ohio needs to do is double down on a casino with a dubious economic impact.

That’s my take. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

The New Yorker Endorsement

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I don’t usually blog about a single endorsement. But when I finished reading this one, sitting at my desk in Akron, Ohio, I literally just started crying. I put my head in my hands, pulled it together, sucked in a hard breath.

So much at stake. So, so, so, so much.

I’m not going to include a nut graf, because you should read the whole thing. Then, you should send it to everyone you know.

“The Choice.”

‘Why Elect John McCain?’

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I’ve been hearing about it for four days — the NY Times magazine cover story, which deconstructs the woeful campaign of John McCain.

I think we can all agree that no matter what happens in these last eight days, McCain’s presidential campaigns has been god-awful. The magazine article (“The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate”) explains why.

Centrally, the article makes the case that while Obama settled on and stuck to one narrative (“Bush is the problem. I’m not going to be Bush, and McCain will be”), McCain shifted with the wind, never deciding on a single story-line.

It’s a long, powerful article, but here’s the nut:

The campaign was in the throes of an identity crisis by June 24, when a number of senior strategists gathered at 9:30 a.m. in a conference room of McCain’s campaign headquarters in Arlington. As one participant said later, the meeting was convened “because we still couldn’t answer the question, ‘Why elect John McCain?’ ” Considering that the election was less than five months away, this was not a good sign.

Draper identifies six narratives that McCain used over the course of the campaign, storylines for the public that were often in flux, and almost always reactive.

1. The Heroic Fighter vs. the Quitter. (McCain, through the Surge, was going to deliver victory in Iraq; Obama was waving the white flag of surrender.)

2. Country-First Deal Maker vs. Nonpartisan Pretender. (McCain’s taken on his own party; Obama has no record doing same.)

3. Leader vs. Celebrity. (McCain came out with a hardline when Russia invaded Georgia, and launched the Paris Hilton ad — implicitly mocking Obama’s European trip.)

4. Team of Mavericks vs. Old-Style Washington. (McCain taps Palin as VP. There are some incredible new details here, about just how little McCain knew Palin when he picked her. Also, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among the finalists that McCain opted against. Just imagine how this election would have played out with Bloomberg, an economic guru, at McCain’s side during the economic meltdown.)

5. John McCain vs. John McCain. (McCain, in launching the attack ads, was running against an earlier version of himself, who had pledged — in 2000 — to unilaterally take down attack ads.)

6. The Fighter (Again) vs. the Tax-and-Spend Liberal. (After the last debate: all Joe the plumber, all the time.)

It’s a terrific article, in part, I think, because Draper seems empathetic toward McCain. You sort of sense, reading between the lines, a kind of respect he has for the candidate. I do think, however, that in a few important places, Draper leads us to the wrong conclusions.

For example, Draper writes:

The McCain campaign maintained that in contrast to Obama, their candidate had taken on his own party while working with Democrats on such issues as immigration and campaign-finance reform. “Obama pays no price from his party — never has,” Salter told me. “My guy has made a career out of it. So, how can you get people to believe that if you can’t get the press to make an honest assessment of it?

Reading that, I think, you might be tempted to cede the point. McCain has taken considerable heat for standing up to his own party — on campaign finance reform, immigration, and tax cuts during time of war, for example.

What Draper doesn’t say is that part of the reason the press didn’t “make an honest assessment,” as he puts it, is precisely because, as a presidential candidate, McCain has embraced his party on so many of the issues where he once stood apart. He once favored immigration reform; now he wants to build a wall along the Texas border first. (I can’t imagine John McCain 2000 advocating that the solution to the problem of illegal immigration begins with the U.S. spending millions to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans.) He once decried tax cuts in war time as irresponsible, he now wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. The man who supposedly stood up to his party on global warming picks a running mate who is completely in bed with the oil and gas industries, and doesn’t believe global warming is caused by humans.

McCain advisor Mark Salter misses the forest for the trees here. McCain made a career of bucking his party, yes, but he then abandoned the most significant of those stances as a presidential candidate. To the degree that the media has held McCain accountable (see, for example, The Daily Show), it has in fact been making a brutally honest assessment.

Obama may not have made a career of bucking his own party, but neither did he embrace its most radical elements the minute he launched his presidential bid. (You could argue he did the opposite. See, for example, his embrace of immunity for telecommunications companies, and his support of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down DC’s ban on handguns.)

There’s a terrific anecdote, toward the end of Draper’s piece, intended, I think, to explain why McCain feels animosity toward Obama:

Authenticity means everything to a man like McCain who, says Salter, “has an affinity for heroes, for men of honor.” Conversely, he reserves special contempt for those he regards as arrogant phonies. A year after Barack Obama was sworn into the Senate, Salter recalls McCain saying, “He’s got a future, I’ll reach out to him” — as McCain had to Russ Feingold and John Edwards, and as the liberal Arizona congressman Mo Udall had reached out to McCain as a freshman. McCain invited Obama to attend a bipartisan meeting on ethics reform. Obama gratefully accepted —but then wrote McCain a letter urging him to instead follow a legislative path recommended by Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate. Feeling double-crossed, McCain ordered Salter to “send him a letter, brush him back a little.” Since that experience, says a Republican who has known McCain for a long time, “there was certainly disdain and dislike of Obama.”

Leave aside, for the moment, the fact that McCain is running one of the least “authentic” campaigns I can remember. (The man who was sunk by nefarious robocalls in 2000 is now sending them out in waves; the guy who said, before tens of millions, that he doesn’t care about a “washed up terrorist” has made that terrorist the center of his campaign.) When you read this paragraph, you feel some measure of understanding — even empathy — toward McCain. He reached out, and was spurned by the cocky newcomer.

That is, until you take a step back and think about it. Who knows why Obama adopted Harry Reid’s approach. Maybe — horror of horrors — the young cocky senator wanted to show some respect to the leadership in his own party, first. Maybe he legitimately liked Reid’s approach better, and his letter back to McCain was a principled stand. There’s a lot left out here.

But one point is clear. Even if you felt spurned, there are a number of ways you could respond. You could, for example — if you wanted to give the benefit of the doubt — take the high road, and leave the invitation open for the future. In the spirit of bipartisanship, you could chose to look beyond the petty and the personal, and decide not to hold a grudge.

McCain, though, felt double-crossed, and he made a different choice. He took it personally: me vs. him. Note the military, tactical overtones in his response: “Send him a letter, brush him back a little.”

Would Lincoln have responded that way? Would Truman, or Kennedy, or Reagan?

I am reminded of an anecdote in Doris Kearns Goodwins’ history, “Team of Rivals.” In it, she recounts how Abraham Lincoln, then an Illinois lawyer, was retained on a patent-infringement case in Chicago. The case was moved to Cincinnati, though, and the defense retained Edwin Stanton instead — without bothering to tell Lincoln.

“When [Lincoln] arrived in Cincinnati after careful preparation,” notes the NY Times review of the book:

Stanton and his colleagues ignored him; Stanton was even heard to speak contemptuously of Lincoln as a backwoods bumpkin. Lincoln was hurt by the snub but stayed to watch the trial and was impressed by Stanton’s courtroom brilliance. Six years later Stanton, a Democrat, was practicing in Washington during the [civil] war’s first year and referred disdainfully to Lincoln in conversations with friends. Lincoln was aware of Stanton’s opinions, but when he decided to get rid of the incompetent Cameron, who had made a hash of military mobilization, he appointed none other than Stanton as secretary of war.

Stanton soon justified the appointment. He worked 15-hour days at his stand-up desk and proved to be one of the best war secretaries the country has ever had. 

Point is, Draper’s anecdote wants to suggest that McCain has valid reasons for feeling and acting disdainful toward Obama.

In fact, it highlights — in just a few, short sentences — why John McCain is thoroughly ill-suited to serve as commander in chief.

The Incredible Sunday Roundup

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Reading the expanisve opinion roundup in Sunday’s New York Times gives you the distinct impression that John McCain’s campaign is cooked. No one is coming right out and saying it. But neither do you have to read between the lines. The tone of the verdict is impossible to miss.

Here’s Conservative McCain supporter David Brooks:

Some of us hoped McCain would take sides in the debate now dividing the G.O.P. Some Republicans believe the G.O.P. went astray by abandoning its tax-cutting, anti-government principles. They want a return to Reagan (or at least the Reagan of their imaginations). But others want to modernize and widen the party and adapt it to new challenges. Some of us hoped that by reforming his party, which has grown so unpopular, McCain could prove that he could reform the country.

But McCain never took sides in this debate and never articulated a governing philosophy, Hamiltonian or any other. In Sunday’s issue of The Times Magazine, Robert Draper describes the shifts in tactics that consumed the McCain campaign. The tactics varied promiscuously, but they were all about how to present McCain, not about how to describe the state of country or the needs of the voter. It was all biography, which was necessary, but it did not clearly point to a new direction for the party or the country …

McCain would be an outstanding president. In government, he has almost always had an instinct for the right cause. He has become an experienced legislative craftsman. He is stalwart against the country’s foes and cooperative with its friends. But he never escaped the straitjacket of a party that is ailing and a conservatism that is behind the times. And that’s what makes the final weeks of this campaign so unspeakably sad.

Here’s moderate Nicholas Kristof, writing about al-Qaeda’s official endorsement of John McCain:

John McCain isn’t boasting about a new endorsement, one of the very, very few he has received from overseas. It came a few days ago:

“Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” read a commentary on a password-protected Islamist Web site that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and often disseminates the group’s propaganda.

The endorsement left the McCain campaign sputtering, and noting helplessly that Hamas appears to prefer Barack Obama. Al Qaeda’s apparent enthusiasm for Mr. McCain is manifestly not reciprocated …

The core reason why Al Qaeda militants prefer a McCain presidency: four more years of blindness to nuance in the Muslim world would be a tragedy for Americans and virtually everyone else, but a boon for radical groups trying to recruit suicide bombers.

Frank Rich, never one to celebrate early, writes:

There are at least two larger national lessons to be learned from what is likely to be the last gasp of Allen-McCain-Palin politics in 2008. The first, and easy one, is that Republican leaders have no idea what “real America” is. In the eight years since the first Bush-Cheney convention pledged inclusiveness and showcased Colin Powell as its opening-night speaker, the G.O.P. has terminally alienated black Americans (Powell himself now included), immigrant Americans (including the Hispanics who once gave Bush-Cheney as much as 44 percent of their votes) and the extended families of gay Americans (Palin has now revived a constitutional crusade against same-sex marriage). Subtract all those players from the actual America, and you don’t have enough of a bench to field a junior varsity volleyball team, let alone a serious campaign for the Electoral College.

But the other, less noticed lesson of the year has to do with the white people the McCain campaign has been pandering to. As we saw first in the Democratic primary results and see now in the widespread revulsion at the McCain-Palin tactics, white Americans are not remotely the bigots the G.O.P. would have us believe. Just because a campaign trades in racism doesn’t mean that the country is racist. It’s past time to come to the unfairly maligned white America’s defense.

Timoth Egan notes:

Republicans have been insinuating for years now that some of the brightest, most productive communities in the United States are fake American — a tactic that dates to Newt Gingrich’s reign in the capitol.

Brainy cities have low divorce rates, low crime, high job creation, ethnic diversity and creative capitalism. They’re places like Pittsburgh, with its top-notch universities; Albuquerque, with its surging Latino middle class; and Denver, with its outdoor-loving young people. They grow good people in the smart cities.

But in the politically suicidal greenhouse that Republicans have constructed for themselves, these cities are not welcome. They are disparaged as nests of latte-sipping weenies, alt-lifestyle types and “other” Americans, somehow inauthentic.

If that’s what Republicans want, they are doomed to be the party of yesterday …

Spurning the Reagan lesson, John McCain made a fatal error in turning his campaign over to the audience of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In so doing, he chose the unbearable lightness of being Sarah Palin, trotted out Paris Hilton and labeled Obama a socialist who associates with terrorists.

Not to be left out, Marueen Dowd piles on:

With the economy cratering and the McCain campaign running on an “average Joe” theme, dunderheaded aides, led by the former Bushies Nicolle Wallace and Tracey Schmitt, costumed their Eliza Doolittle for a ball when she should have been dressing for a bailout.

The Republicans’ attempt to make the case that Barack Obama is hoity-toity and they’re hoi polloi has fallen under the sheer weight of the stunning numbers:

The McCains own 13 cars, eight homes and access to a corporate jet, and Cindy had her Marie Antoinette moment at the convention. Vanity Fair calculated that her outfit cost $300,000, with three-carat diamond earrings worth $280,000, an Oscar de la Renta dress valued at $3,000, a Chanel white ceramic watch clocking in at $4,500 and a four-strand pearl necklace worth between $11,000 and $25,000. While presenting herself as an I’m-just-like-you hockey mom frugal enough to put the Alaska state plane up for sale on eBay, Palin made her big speech at the convention wearing a $2,500 cream silk Valentino jacket that the McCain staff had gotten her at Saks.

Nobel Economics Luareate Paul Krugman adds:

Mr. McCain seems spectacularly unable to talk about economics as if it matters. He has attempted to pin the blame for the crisis on his pet grievance, Congressional budget earmarks — which leaves economists scratching their heads in puzzlement. In the immediate aftermath of the Lehman failure, he declared that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” seemingly unaware that he was closely echoing what Herbert Hoover said after the 1929 crash.

But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign.

These columnits are all serious, sober people from across the political spectrum, not prone to the kind of hyperbole for the sake of ratings we’re used to seeing on CNN. As I say, none of them even came right out and so much as predicted an Obama win.

Rich, for example, in closing, would only go so far as to say, “this seems to be the election year” when voters are rejecting divisive, Rovian, GOP politics.

Krugman opened with: “Maybe the polls and the conventional wisdom are all wrong, and John McCain will pull off a stunning upset.”

Brooks leaves open the possibility of a McCain win, noting that he “would be an outstanding president.”

But, I have to say, reading these columns one after the other, shot-gun style, stacked four to a page and separated by artist-rendered bunting — it had the feel of a post-mortem, nine days early.

McCain is Freaking me Out a Little in Pennsylvania

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I know polls show that Obama has had a consistent lead in Pennsylvania. But McCain has gone all-in there, and it concerns me.

It’s clear why. Consider: If McCain wins Pennsylvania, he can lose Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Viriginia — and still win the election.

With Murtha running around calling Western Pennsylvania “racist,” and with memories of Hillary Clinton’s drubbing of Obama in the primaries — and, apparently, with internal polls that show the race even closer than it seems — McCain has quintupled down on the state.

“We don’t believe any of the naysayers who believe Pennsylvania is out of reach,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying.

Apparently, Gov. Ed Rendell has all but begged Obama to return to Pennsylvania. I haven’t heard or read whether Obama has agreed.

If anyone knows of any reason Barack should not return to Pennsylvania in these last 9 days, speak now or forever hold your peace.